Co Laois teenager guilty of murdering 14-year-old

 

A 16-year-old Co Laois teenager who hammered a 14-year-old boy to death was found guilty of murder at the Central Criminal Court in Dublin yesterday.

After deliberating for more than 2½ hours at the end of the eight-day trial, the jury found the youth guilty by a majority of 11-1.

The mother of the victim broke down in tears as the verdict was read out. The accused showed no emotion. Mr Justice White remanded the youth, who cannot be named for legal reasons, in custody to St Patrick's Institution for sentencing on October 12th.

Mr Justice White said a mandatory life sentence was normally handed down for a murder conviction, but he said that "there is an exception when it comes to dealing with juveniles. I have the discretion on the issue of sentencing" he told the jury.

He said he would have to take the teenager's "tender years" into consideration and added that "at the very least there is a psychological aspect and indeed there might be a psychiatric aspect to this case".

The youth had pleaded not guilty to the murder. His parents sat behind him as the verdict came through.

The court heard last week that the victim's body was found on waste ground in a midlands town shortly before midnight on November 11th, 2003. Evidence from the State Pathologist, Dr Marie Cassidy, said he had suffered "six separate blows to his head".

The teenager, she said, "would have lost consciousness immediately and died rapidly". The boy's skull "had been broken up and was like a jigsaw with some of the pieces fallen out of the wounds" she said, and added that fragments of his skull were found around his collar and under his right hand.

She said the head injuries were caused by a hammer or some type of blunt weapon.

The father of the accused told the court that his son had been living with him for six months. He told the jury that he had only become part of his son's life in 2003. Before that, he had been living with his mother in his grandparents' house.

He said his son had attempted suicide in September 2003 and that he "was very worried about him".

The prosecution case rested primarily on the evidence of several friends and acquaintances of the accused youth who testified that he had been talking about killing someone the week before and then admitted to the murder on the night in question.

One of his classmates told the court that at 7.15 p.m. on the night in question, the accused had said: "Jesus, I'd love to kill someone, someone that no one would care about, like [deceased's name\]."

The victim's mother told the court that when she got home at 5.30 p.m. on the night of the murder, she presumed her son was still out with his friends. She then became concerned and rang him before 6 p.m.

"When I rang, I got the message 'This phone is out of service'. I rang and I rang and I rang. I texted him. I checked his number and I rang again and there was still no answer". She told the court her son's mobile was only a few weeks old.

An adult witness also told the jury the accused called into him between 4 p.m. and 4.30 p.m. that evening. He said the 16-year-old sold him a phone "the week before and it wasn't working so he said he would get me another one straight away".

The accused called back at 5.50 p.m. with a new mobile phone. The victim's phone was shown to the witness who said: "That's the same phone, the same model anyway."

Mr Patrick Gageby SC, defending, pointed to the lack of forensic evidence and certain "oddities" in the case.

He also said the accused had no apparent motive for the killing.